In our everyday lives we are surrounded by names; some of them stick and some of them don’t. In terms of products and services, the absolute dream of any new brand is to have its name used in everyday speech, like Google or Hoover. But getting to that kind of position is often down to luck, timing and opportunism. But there is still good marketing sense behind choosing a successful brand name.
What is a brand name?
Quite simply, a brand name is a name given to a product or service to identify it and to differentiate it from the competition. It is the first stage of communication with the market and is therefore integral to the marketing strategy, in the sense that you want it to be memorable and to become synonymous with what the customer wants and expects from your brand.
What is the aim of a brand name?
People label stuff in all walks of life, it is a way of processing information and a method of easy recall for things we need to remember or find. Even in the home we might have a ‘sock drawer’, a ‘cereal cupboard’ or a ‘comfy chair’, when really these are just a drawer, a cupboard and a chair. A name therefore can label something but also become a description, and that one word can tell you everything about expectation and desirability.
In your home this label only means something to you, but in the marketplace, and for a product or service, you want a brand name to tell someone everything about what the product/service is, its values, its image, its market position and its associations. If successful, a brand name will instantly tell you all these things, and if you look around you there are plenty of good examples.
Types of brand names
Generally speaking there are seven types of brand name and pretty much every one you see will fit in to one of these categories:
– Descriptive – a literal name like Toys”R”Us or Build-A-Bear
– Evocative – an inspiring or powerful name like Virgin or Amazon
– Invented – a name you have made up to fit your business, like Google or Pixar
– Lexical – a name linked to the product like Pizza Hut or Yo Sushi
– Acronyms – a shortened version of the original full name, like MTV or KFC
– Geographical – a name linked to a market location like British Airways or Leeds Roofing Services
– Founder names – a name linked to a family or founder, such as Ford Motors or Ben & Jerrys
Why are brand names important?
Fundamentally, your product or service is what makes your brand name successful, so you won’t get very far in establishing your brand name and growing it, without that. If the product/service sells well then the name becomes associated with success and customer satisfaction. But this can also work the other way.
So getting a brand name right is something of a Catch 22 situation. Starbucks is one of the biggest brand names in the world, but two other names considered at its outset were Cargo House and Pequod. If the same product and service had carried one of these two names would it have faced the same success? Starbucks is a snappy name and now synonymous with the product. In market research now we would always say we prefer the Starbucks names to the alternatives, but maybe only because we know it and have a brand perception? Who’s to say one of those other names wouldn’t have worked also?
How to choose a good brand name
All words and names have an immediate meaning and associations, so a name has to make some kind of sense or make a statement, depending on your approach. There are no hard or fast rules on this, but some guidelines to follow include:
– Know your customers – does a name appeal to them? Will it turn them off? Is it appropriate? Does it use their language? Yo Cashmere Sweater, might not necessarily appeal to people who like cashmere sweaters, for example.
– Evolve – has the name got the potential to grow and still make sense when the business evolves how you want it to?
– Communication – will the name work and look right on all forms of communication? ie. on the product, in shops, on adverts, on letterheads and on social media
– Unique – does it make your product/service stand out and is it sufficiently different to other names on the market?
– Association – does the name create the right vision, does it portray your values? Does it make sense in every language? Could it mean something else in Chinese, for example, which could be giving a very different message!
– Phonetics – is it easy to say and spell and easy to be remembered?
– Research – always run your brand name by a market research group, along with some alternatives. Ask them what it says to them, and does it say what you want it to say? You are facing a Starbucks situation of course, but market feedback is always worth listening to.
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